Around the same time that I covered this story, I went to a women's health clinic to get standard screenings for STD's and STI's and I also wanted a screening for HPV.
I went into this with my new found awareness that a clear pap smear result does not always mean that there is no chance that you have HPV.* I remember a staffer saying something to me along the lines of, "we usually do a pap smear and if something shows up than we screen for HPV."
While I am aware that had I gone to a different doctor or health care provider at that same clinic I may have gotten a different answer. I also appreciate that she may have handled our interaction based on what she was trained or encouraged to do by whomever decides what the standard of care is for basic STD, STI and any other gynecological screenings.
However, there must be women who have gone to that clinic and gotten similar information about HPV screenings and had no reason to think that they were not being given the full picture.
I remember making an attempt to get an HPV screening regardless of how the pap smear results came back. This was years ago before there was any notion of an HPV vaccine on the market and I do think that there is generally much more discussion around HPV.
What I take from that experience is the importance of educating myself about my health in order to have the best possible interaction with health care providers.
In some ways, I think of healthcare as being similar to any other service in that the best result comes out of having a trusting relationship between service providers and the populations they work with.
If you are part of a population where conversations about health are limited to yearly check ups, where can you find information to compliment those discussions?
In what settings do health care providers have opportunities to interact with the populations they work with outside of formal appointments?
While conversations about sexual and reproductive health rights are critical, it is also good to just get information and to ensure that a general awareness is supported in settings such as community centers, online communities, the social media space, colleges and universities etc...
*I am not a medical professional and this is just me recounting my own personal experience as I remember it.